This Painful Skin Rash May Put You At Risk Of A Heart Attack
A painfully, blistering skin rash may hint at some heart problems down the line: People with shingles are at higher risk of a heart attack or stroke, according to new research in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
After following up nearly 520,000 patients for 10 years, the researchers discovered that people who had shingles were 35 percent more likely to experience a stroke and 59 percent more likely to have a heart attack than people without the skin rash.
When looking at stroke specifically, it seemed like younger people were at even higher risk: People under 40 who had shingles were more than three times as likely to have a stroke than those without the condition. That’s important, since people in that age group typically have fewer established risk factors that would lead to buildup in their blood vessels, which can contribute to stroke. (Sweating off extra weight can help your heart, too. Try The 21-Day MetaShred from Men’s Health to shred fat right in your own home.)
The risks of experiencing a heart attack and stroke spiked highest in the year after the shingles diagnosis, the study found.
Herpes zoster, called shingles, hits an estimated one in three people over their lifetime, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates. Shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. After you get chickenpox, the virus stays dormant in your body—then, for reasons doctors don’t really understand, it reactivates, causing shingles.
When you get shingles, you develop a painful, blistering rash on one side of your face or body. You can also experience fever, headache, chills, and upset stomach.
This current study didn’t delve into how exactly shingles infection can up your risk, but a previous study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings did hint at a few possibilities. When the virus reactivates, it could affect the arteries in your brain, messing with your smooth muscles cells in a way that may contribute to aneurysm and hemorrhagic stroke. The virus may also trigger inflammatory cells, potentially disrupting plaque in your arteries that can raise your risk of heart attack or stroke. (Here are five signs your heart isn’t working as well as it should.)
So if you’ve been diagnosed with shingles, you may want to check in with your doctor about your heart risk. In the meantime, here are 30 easy ways you can protect your heart today.